San Francisco, CA

San Francisco's chain drug stores facing a major shoplifting problem

Rahul Barman

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The image of the shoplifter filling the trash bag with items from the storeLYANNE MELENDEZ/TWITTER

A shoplifter caught on video at Walgreens in San Francesco on Monday highlighted the fact that shoplifting has gone up a lot particularly in the chain drug stores. The video captured by a reporter from CNN affiliate KGO. The suspect took items from the shelves of Walgreen and put them in his garbage bag. He even continued to do so as the stores security guard and three others filmed the incident just feet’s away from him.

The suspect puts the bag on his bike and rides towards the security guard who attempts to grab the bag but fails. There were no injuries during the incident. The shoplifter then leaves the store with the bag. All of this was captured in the video.

San Francesco Police spokesman Adam Lobsinger said police are aware of the situation and the SFPD Northern Station Investigation Team and SFPD Burglary Unit are investigating on it.

The Walgreen incident showed what the spokesman of the store said that, it is a persistent problem in San Francisco.

"Unfortunately, this is another example of blatant retail theft which is an ongoing problem for several retailers in San Francisco," Walgreen spokesman Phill Caruso said in an email.

Last month, San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Ahsha Safai held a hearing to discuss the city’s shoplifting problem. Retailers like Walgreens and CVS spoke about the same issue.

“This has been out of control,” Safai said at the hearing. “People are scare to go into these stores: seniors, people with disabilities, children. And it’s happening brazenly. We can’t just as a city throw up our hands and say this is OK.”

The number of thefts in San Francisco is four times more than its other stores across the country, Caruso said. And the cost of hiring security guard is 35 times more here in San Francisco, he added.

Ben Dugan, CVS director also gave some insights in the hearing. He said that there are 155 CVS stores in the Bay Area including 12 in San Francisco, but these 12 stores made about 26% of the total thefts that occurs in CVS stores.

He called San Francisco “one of the epicentres of organized retail crime” and said the items are being stolen with the intent of selling them for re-profit.”

The scale of these thefts is staggering in the area. According to California Attorney General’s Office, last October there five people were arrested for stealing and reselling these items. The joint investigation recovered $8 million in stolen goods from stores like CVS, Walgreens and Target.

Although there is a good number of shoplifting cases which still persist in the state but the data from SFPD shows that the rate has decreased this year. Property crimes are down by 7.6% and larceny crime which includes shoplifting has gone down 14.4% so far this year compared to this point last year, according to SFPD data.

But the majority of the larceny cases are not solved. The data showed that out of all the cases only 2.8% of it are solved and cleared.

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s office said that they have not received or learned of ant arrests in the video from Monday.

“These videos and stories are infuriating,” the office said. “We support businesses experiencing these crimes and respect their policies to prioritize their staff above merchandise.”

“Unfortunately, because arrest happen in less than 3 percent of reported thefts, these cases are rarely presented to us for prosecution – and when they are, we prosecute the vast majority of them,” Boudin’s office said. “But because arrests are so infrequent, our office has been proactively partnering with stores like Walgreens on prevention programs as well as partnering with other jurisdictions – which last year led to the recovery of over $11 million in stolen merchandise.”

In comments to KGO on Tuesday, San Francisco Mayor London Breed said she had met with Walgreens executives to discuss a policy about potentially limiting the number of people who come in to the stores to try to solve the issue.

She also called for more police officers to patrol the city streets to know better of the neighbourhood.

“There’s no easy solution to this,” she said. “But having police officers is definitely a need in a major city like San Francisco.”

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A machine learning enthusiast and a web developer. I love technology and all things related to it. Love writing about tech and sharing the information I gain. As the old saying goes sharing knowledge make the one even more knowledgeable. Currently working as a Trainee Software Engineer.

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